Collection Assessment

“The process of assessing the quality of a library collection, usually in terms of specific objectives, or the needs of the target group of that particular collection; one aspect of collection development.”
Guide to Cooperative Collection Development (American Library Association, 1994) p.21

Collection assessment is used synonymously with collection evaluation.

Methods and Sources:

The following may be used to compile collection assessment reports.

A title-level check of library holdings against one or several standards. Sources may include:
the catalogues of libraries which support similar programs
subject bibliographies, including published guides to core collections. citation analyses
Choice review essays
specialized bibliographies
lists of readings recommended by course instructors

Library system data

the total number of volumes, titles under specified subjects to measure collection density
the number of volumes, titles added to a subject collection over a defined period of time to measure collecting intensity
total expenditures on acquisitions by subject
circulation frequencies by borrower groups and other collection use statistics
inter-library loan statistics, including requests to and from other libraries, and orders to vendors like Uncover

Direct examination of materials on the shelf, including an evaluation of the physical condition of holdings

User surveys for opinions about the scope, depth, significance, and currency of the collection.
Once the quality of a collection has been thoroughly assessed, and weaknesses, if any, are identified, it is important to calculate how much initial and sustained funding is required to develop and maintain a collection so that is meets the needs of any program or course which it is meant to support. This information should be gathered whether additional funding is likely or not.

Formal Declarations of the Need for Assessment:

Because assessments are labour intensive and require careful preparation, they are rarely undertaken without some external compulsion.
Please refer to the Selection Process section of the Collection Policy Manual for examples of instances when a collection assessment is required. As written now, Guidelines for New Course Offerings (M.S.V.U.: 1988) places the onus on the instructor of the proposed course to provide a bibliography to be checked by the librarian.
The same section of the Collection Policy includes the text of the Statement on Collection Responsibility (Novanet:1993) which anticipates a co-operative approach among Novanet librarians to define core materials, and assess the impact of new courses or degree programs at institutions “where curricula/collections overlap …”.